This post is a bit of a spring salad of special opportunities coming up. The first is a tea at Gracie Mansion (for which many have already signed up) on Thursday, MAY 29th. The second is a chance to check out the usually shuttered New York State Pavillion from the 1964 World’s Fair during the fleeting three hours it is going to be open on the 50th Anniversary of the opening of the Fair – on Tuesday, APRIL 22nd. The May Lunch Bunch is scheduled for Tuesday, MAY 20th at FREDA’s, the famous soul restaurant in Manhattan Valley / Morningside Heights after which the group will walk over to St John the Divine to see the recently installed PHOENIX sculptures by Chinese artist XuBing.
GRACIE MANSION TEA - Many of you have already signed up for our May 29th tour and tea at Gracie Mansion, the official residence of the Mayor of New York City. However, we DO still have room for a few more - so this is an event to which you may invite friends. Many, many thanks to the ever-imaginative and energetic MWC Member Mollie Newman for arranging this activity.
Just like the ever-morphing New York City, Gracie Mansion has had many uses and identities. Built by the otherwise historically undistinguished shipping magnate Archibald Gracie in 1799 as a country manor in the northern reaches of Manhattan, it’s backyard initially sloped down to the very edge of the East River. Then, after several changes of ownership, in 1910 the City acquired the property to incorporate it into the grounds of what would become Carl Schurz Park. For many years thereafter the building was used as a comfort station (aka …bathroom) and ice cream stand until it housed the Museum of the City of New York. But when that Museum moved to a larger building, the over-powering, redoubtable Parks Commissioner Robert Moses persuaded the City to use it as the official residence of New York’s Mayor. In 1942 New York Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia was the first NYC Mayor to use the residence - just before Moses started construction on the FDR Drive which would cut off Gracie Mansion’s lawn from the East River.
But what is most fascinating about Gracie Mansion, is not what it is, but what it is NOT. In a city and era which seems to feed on scale and excess, where there are many $50+MM 30-room condo’s, multiple candidates for the world’s tallest residential buildings, and one of the highest density levels in the world – the official residence of the Mayor of New York City remains what it was. – A grand-for-its-period, although somewhat unprepossessing, country manor of only two or three stories surrounded by lush, comforting grounds. And that’s the point. It is a touchstone to the City’s history.
DETAILS: The MWC will have tea and tour of the residence on Thursday, May 29th from 1-3 pm. A Reservation / Payment link has already been sent out to current members (and this event is already way past its minimum) and it is also available in the “Members” section of the website. At this rate it seems likely we will reach the maximum number permitted, so if you are interested in this event and have not already signed up, don’t dilly-dally …. sign up soon !
IT’S 1964 AGAIN – FOR THREE HOURS ONLY ! - This coming APRIL 22nd will be the 50th Anniversary of the opening of the 1964 World’s Fair. And for many New York area baby-boomers, this was the World’s Fair to end all World’s Fairs which was a paen to American technology, consumerism and the future. Mid-century design and architecture (think General Electric’s “Carousel of Progress” exhibition and IBM’s Philip Johnson-designed egg-shaped pavilion) were the rage. Americans were exposed for the first time to computers, the Pieta and Belgian waffles. Philip Johnson also designed the New York State pavilion, an open-air design which created the highest spot at the fair as observation towers.
The 1964 World’s Fair attendance of 40MM people fell far short of the 70MM people needed for it to break even. But it did provide New York Master Builder Robert Moses (see above!) with the funds needed to finish the Flushing Meadows Corona Park which he started to create in the late 1930′s in preparation for the 1939 World’s Fair (and was the original location of the Corona ash dumps featured in the high speed car chases in and out of the City in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby).
Fifty years later, what remains on the grounds of the 1964 World’s Fair is the current, quite magnificent Flushing Meadows Corona Park where throughout one can find vestiges of the ’64 Fair. More than mere vestiges, however, are the UNISPHERE – the huge stainless steel globe surrounded by atom-like streaks and the deteriorating, brooding towers of the NYState Pavillion. Familiar to many now as merely a location for scenes in the movies Men in Black and Iron Man, it is overgrown and forlorn. However, fortunately from a preservationist point of view, the NYState Pavilion was put on the National Register of Historic Places in 2009 and, best of all, it has been estimated that it would cost more to tear down than renovate ! (If only that could have been the case with Penn Station ….)
So, thanks to the efforts of a group of World’s Fair enthusiasts (the volunteer New York State Pavilion Paint Crew – who have spent hours and hours sprucing it up) and the NYC Parks Department, the 1964 NYState World’s Fair Pavilion will be open for three hours – from 11am to 2pm on April 22 (the exact 50th Anniversary of the Fair’s opening). Hardhats will be provided. At 3pm Bill Cotter, author of When the World Came to Queens, a look at the 1939 and 1964 fairs, will speak at the Queens Theater (nearby in the Park). He’ll discuss the two Fairs, their major highlights, and the legacies they created. More information on this topic can be found at: nywf64.com and nyspproject.org. Some of us are going to jog the memories of our childhood visits to the ’64 World’s Fair and head out there for this historic 3-hour occasion. DETAILS: If you would like to join us, please send in an email with “1964 WORLD’S FAIR” in the subject line and we’ll coordinate meet-up details.
MAY LUNCH BUNCH: In the (Morningside) Heights - MWC Member Anne Dunning has come up with a combo May Lunch Bunch and art outing. Lunch will be at noon at FREDA’S CARIBBEAN & SOUL CUISINE on Upper Columbus Avenue, a restaurant which has been a staple of Manhattan Valley for three generations for the Columbia University community and gourmands alike. After feasting at Freda’s the Lunch Bunchers will go the three or so blocks over to St. John the Divine to see the quite extraordinary and gargantuan XuBing PHOENIX sculptures which were recently installed in the Church. These are the massive works of art made entirely from construction debris and which truly take your breath away. The May Lunch Bunch will be on MAY 20th. DETAILS: A link for refunded No-Show Insurance will be sent out (and is available on the website) to secure spots at lunch but all members are, of course, welcome to join the group at St John the Divine afterwards.
RECURRING ACTIVITIES REMINDERS: EVENING BOOK GROUP: Tues, May 1 - WILD: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed // Tues, June 2nd - THE DEVIL IN THE GROVE by Gilbert King // Sept/Oct: THE GOLDFINCH by Donna Tartt … LUNCHTIME BOOK GROUP: Wed, April 16 – THE ALIENIST by Caleb Carr // Wed, May 21st – BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY’S by Truman Capote // Wed., June 18 – MY NOTORIOUS LIFE by Kate Manning // Wed., July 16th – TEACHER MAN by Frank McCort … LUNCH BUNCH: Wed., April 23rd – KUM GANG SAN // Tuesday, May 20th - FREDA’s CARIBBEAN & SOUL // Tues, June 10th – LOEB BOATHOUSE … Thurs, July 10th – BROOLYN CRAB in Red Hook … MOVIE MAVENS: Wed, April 30th – YOUNG AND BEAUTIFUL // Tues, May 20th - BELLE. Please check the Events/ Activities Tab on the website for the schedule for the many upcoming events – don’t miss something !
CHERRY BLOSSOMS ABOUT TO POP ! The Brooklyn Botanical Garden’s Blossom Map was updated two days ago … looks like their Cherry Blossoms are about to explode (only takes a couple of days). See below. If you want a major, major burst of Spring in your life, get out there …. soon.